Sunday, December 7, 2014

Interview: Lyndsay Johnson

One of the best parts of becoming a published author is all of the awesome people I’ve meet along the way. Lyndsay’s one of these cool kids I’m talking about. She saw my poster at the library and sought me out. We hit it off right from the start. Why wouldn’t we? Both of us have a passion for Mythology, write similar genres and call the same valley our home. We’ve also released our debut novels this year. Fire of the Sea came out in April, published under 48Fourteen. The story was beautifully written, and every scene was infused with breathtaking imagery (see my review here: ). I was so impressed with Lyndsay, both as a writer and a person that I wanted to sit down with her to discuss her journey so far.

A: Hi, Lyndsay! Thanks for stopping by.

L: Thanks for having me!

A: Anytime! Now you actually started out as a graphic designer, right? How did you wind up writing about mermaids instead?

L: I studied graphic arts and creative writing in college, and went on to work in magazine publishing for five years before starting a family. But once I was my own boss, I decided to combine the two! I now split my creative time between writing fantasy and designing book covers, digital illustration, and other graphic design pursuits. Mermaids, though, came as quite a surprise! I had been starting to ramp up my fiction writing when I had a dream that I was a mermaid, saving a drowning pilot who had fallen into the sea from his airplane. I woke up and started writing what is now Chapter 2 of Fire of the Sea.

A: Dreams can be such an inspiration. How many years did your journey take from start to finish?

L: More than thee years. I took my time with research (which was extensive and involved reading lots of fairy tales as well as ancient Norse texts), and developing the characters and story. I wrote for about six months, edited for another six, and then queried for probably a year before Fire of the Sea got picked up by my publisher, 48fourteen.

A: I’ll be asking about your publisher. They seem pretty awesome, but right now I’m still stuck on mermaids. I love mythology. Out of all the topics to write on, why were you drawn to it?

L: It really just found me! The mermaid dream was definitely part of it. I wanted to rewrite the classic mermaid stories that are rooted in fairy tales, but add something a bit different and modern. At first I was toying with the idea of a Greek mermaid. But that didn’t feel right. My husband has a great love of Iceland, and I bought him a copy of the Icelandic Sagas after one of his yearly trips. It struck me that no one had ever done an Icelandic mermaid. I felt like it complimented the original Danish The Little Mermaid by keeping it in Scandinavia. I took elements of Norse mythology and then added more of my own design—which is so much fun to do! I even bridged Norse and Greek mythology in an unexpected twist.

A: You did a beautiful seamless job of it. I also love the way you develop your characters. Do you have a system, or do you use people from your life?

L: I use a combination of answering questions about each character then seeing how they organically grow from there (what motivates them, what are their goals), and I also just listen to them. Like in my head. Am I crazy? Other authors do this, too, right… Right? One friend told me that Gunnar (the love interest) has characteristics of my husband. But that was totally subconscious.

A: Okay, now I’m back to your publisher. Tell us about your road to publication and how you chose 48Fourteen.

L: Well. It was quite a road! I desperately wanted to find an agent, because I thought that’s what every self-respecting author who takes their writing seriously should do. But I was new to this, and quite naïve, and had a lot to learn about all the ways an author can publish and be successful. I had varied feedback from agents. Some loved it, some hated it, one wanted me to rewrite the whole book in a different POV, another wanted me to split the book into a trilogy, and others had just signed mermaid stories and couldn’t sign me. At one point I had a literary manager trying to help me find an agent. That was when I realized that the manager, the agent, AND the publisher would all take a cut. No thank you. I didn’t feel like I knew enough about self-publishing, so I started researching smaller, independent publishers. I sent my manuscript to my top five choices I felt were publishing really solid stuff, and I heard back from two who wanted Fire of the Sea. Ultimately I went with 48fourteen because I just had a really great feeling about them, and they were very enthusiastic about my book.

A: It looks like you did well for yourself. Any regrets?

L: Never send your very first query letter out to your top five agent choices, and then realize it has a spelling error. (facepalm)

A: Ha! I think we’ve all done that. I once had a blaring error and it bugged me so bad that I emailed the agent back asking if I could correct it. She appreciated my OCD tendencies enough that she requested pages, but passed on the manuscript. I wasn’t ready yet, which brings me to the next question. If you could speak to your younger self, what would you say?

L: Keep up the good work!

A: I love that! Who inspires you?

L: I am always so inspired by other moms out there who are making their dreams come true while raising a family. It helps me remember that it can be done, even on the really hard days.

A: What is in your reading queue right now?

L: I just finished The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger, and I am taking a brief reading break to really dig in to my latest project (which brings me to your next question, I presume).

A: You’d be right. Can you tell us about your latest project?

L: Right now I am working on a parallel dystopian fantasy about Bryony, daughter of the Gatekeeper of the city Drosera, which is surrounded by a towering, protective wall. Bryony and her family are forced to live on the outside of the wall, at the edge of danger. The story challenges the ideas of power and beauty, as Bryony forms her own ideas about real danger.

A: I’ve read some of this piece, folks! Pretty powerful stuff. I know you have little ones at home. How do you balance writing time and a family life?

L: I don’t always do a good job at balancing everything. At this very moment, I have spilled watercolor paint drying on my kitchen table, just put a load of laundry in for the first time in three days, and haven’t done the dishes since yesterday because I am working on book promotion. I had my third baby two weeks before Fire of the Sea debuted. So this has been a whirlwind of a year! I am still working on trying to do a little bit of everything every day. But I would much rather throw myself fully into one project at a time. But that’s not realistic. So I am working on realistic. J

Thank you, Lyndsay! Fire of the Sea is available on a special $0.99 promotion this week. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed:

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